As They Say: When in Rome, Do as the Romans.
Recently I had a nice conversation with the head of Asia-Pacific of an international company about how to succeed in Thailand. I explained how businesses in Thailand do not respond well to companies that come to Thailand with no experience, track record or support infrastructure here in the Kingdom. I also explained how Thailand has a strong cultural tradition around “the teacher culture,” where teachers are considered much higher than mere consultants and integrators.
The conversation went well, I thought, until I received a call from another person in the company who proceeded to tell me how to do business in Thailand and how to determine the target market, and how to set up sales. Now mind you, I had already explained that there would be no immediate sales opportunities for a few years, realistically, and that this was a long term initiative, designed around a solid education and training program – build infrastructure first. From a strong education and training program, the market would become clear.
This is such a simple win-win-win situation, but companies do not seem to understand it. They just want to exploit every contact, event situation, for a quarterly sell. Why not take the long view as well, since it does not cost you any money?
The guy on the other end of the phone would have nothing to do with our way of thinking in Thailand. He seemed to be pushing to insure pre-sales contact immediately. Instead of supporting us, he wanted to manage us from overseas!! We asked for support to build their brand, what they seemed to offer was management by proxy!
Folks, this will not work in Thailand (or most Asia countries).
If you want to tap into the fast growing Asia market, leave behind your aggressive New York or Silicon Valley sales guns and forceful presale tactics, where you are content to find an opening, exploit it, make a sale, and report the sale on your quarterly report. You can get aggressive when you have built a sustainable infrastructure. The same is true in Japan, not only Thailand.
In Asia, do as the Asians. In Rome, do as the Romans. In Thailand, do as the Thais. In Japan, do as the Japanese.
It is easy to make money in Thailand (and other Asia countries) if you follow their way of business. Educate, teach, build a workforce, build a sustainable infrastructure on the ground, and then sell, sell, sell.
Granted, many companies do not have resources to do this overseas. In that case, enable your partners to do it and let them build the business; don’t manage them, support them.